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Canines On a Mission 

In Clarke C. Jones 

\\ hen tlie mission gets tough, our oniceis eal 

in additional lielp ot'tlie4degged varielA. 




Winged Invasion 

b\ Jason E. Davis 

W hile this bird generates |)l('ul\ ol had press, the 

author urg(\s us to r(>s|)('cl ilsadaphxc nature. 

Tiny Aquatic Treasures 

In Marie Majarox 

Stonefliesand niidgcsaud h(']lgr"iniinit(>s. oh un\ 

loiter' the world oi'henlhicerealui'fvs. 

Fish Mysteries 

in Gleiida C. IJootli 

.Scieulisis ha\e Miau\ more (jueslions than 

answers in the (luest lo under'sland fish diseases. 

O O Paradise Creek Nature Park 

^^ In Belli lle.ster 

\ new park uuColdingin Portsmouth |)ro\ides 
puhlic access loa rich arra\ oCwildlile and fish. 

O C coasting for Recovery. . . Literally 
In Briiee Ingrain 

Sometimes emotional and physical therapx com 
in ihe form ol'flshing. Il\ (ishinglhal is. 


30 Whilelail Biology • 32 PholoTips 
33 Oil the WaUM- • 34 Dining In 

CO\ ER: June is a ujrcal lime lo \isil one oIN liiiiiiiMs iiia;!iiillccril ri\('r's! ' Dwiylil l)\k(' 

Executive Director 

This issue of Virginia Wildlife covers a variety of seasonal topics, 
several having to do with fisheries. One in particiJar, by Marie 
Majarov, focuses upon the importance of macro-invertebrates to 
stream health and shines a light on the many volunteers across Vir- 
ginia who perform water sampling for these indicator species. Just 
remember, "inverts" are the backbone of the animal world! The fea- 
ture about Casting for Recovery heralds the fine services of a non- 
profit organization working to provide therapy through fly fishing to 
women struggling with the aftermath of breast cancer. All of these 
stories extol the value of volunteerism. 

Also in the June issue is a feature about the Departments new 
canine (K9) unit — which has recendy expanded to five handlers and 
their canine partners. They have done a superb job in the relatively 
short time they have been training, and have provided a real boost to 
our law enforcement division. Watching these dogs work is simply 
amazing. There is absolutely no denying the bond that forms be- 
tween each officer and his or her canine partner. I invite you to read 
the story inside and learn about this remarkable program — how they 
train to go about the business of tracking people, detecting game, re- 
covering evidence, and educating the public about the mission of 
this agency. 

Public education and outreach are at the forefront of my mind 
these days. As a result of the 20 1 2 legislative session, we were asked to 
study several different issues that have engaged our constituents, in- 
cluding how to better address their concerns about exotic animals 
(following what happened in Ohio last year). Additionally, we have 
been asked to work with the Fox Hound Training Preserve Associa- 
tion regarding best management practices for those facilities; to 
identify possible improvements for hunter access to private land, es- 
pecially on properties with a history of crop damage by wildlife; and 
to work with localities in Northern Virginia on lyme disease-related 

The most serious follow-up task to the legislative session is one 
that involves taking a fresh look at our law enforcement practices and 
policies, while considering strategies to address some of the law en- 
forcement legislation that was introduced, and either carried over or 
tabled. Our Department and the leadership of our law enforcement 
division are dedicated to providing the best conservation law en- 
forcement program possible. We will be examining all aspects of 
what we do and how we do it — including recruitment, training, su- 
pervision, and officer priorities, as well as outreach and other divi- 
sion responsibilities. 

We have heard the issues. I can assure you we are taking every 
possible step to provide the type of law enforcement — and public 
outreach programs — that all Virginians can be proud of 


To manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth; To 
provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard the rights 
of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game as provided for in the Constitution of Virginia; To promote safer)' for persons and property in 
umncction with boating, hunting and fishing; To provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of and appre- 
ciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitats, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities. 

Dedicated to the Conservation of Virginia's Wildlife and Natural Resources 

VOLUMl- 73 


Bob McDonnell, Governor 


Subsidized this publication 

Douglas W. Domenech 



Bob Duncan 

Executive Director 


Lisa Caruso, Church Road 
J. Brent Clarite, III, Great Falls 
Curtis D. Colgate, Virginia Beach 
Ben Davenport, Chatham 
Garry L. Gray, Bowling Green 
James W. Hazel, Oakton 
Randy J. Kozuch, Alexandria 
Hugh Palmer, Highland Springs 
F. Scott Reed, Jr, Manakin-Sabot 
Leon O. Turner, Fincastle 
Charles S. Yates, Cleveland 


Sally Mills, Editor 

Lee Walker, Ron Messina, Contributing Editors 

Emily Pels, Art Director 

Carol Kushlak, Production Manager 

Tom Guess, Staff Contributor 

Printing by Progress Printing Plus, Lynchburg, V/ 

Virginia Wildlife (ISSN 0042 6792) is published month 
by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fishcri« 
Send all subscription orders and address changes to Virgin 
Wildlife, P O. Box 830, Boone, Iowa 50036. Address i 
other communications concerning this publication to Vi 
ginia "Wildlife, P. O. Box 1 1 104, 4010 West Broad Sttw 
Richmond, Virginia 23230-1 104. Subscription rates a 
$12.95 for one year, $23.95 for rwo years; $4.00 pereac 
back issue, subject to availabiliry. Out-of-countr>' rate 
$24.95 for one year and must be paid in U.S. funds. No r 
funds for amounts less than $5.00. To subscribe, call tol 
free (800) 710-9369. POSTMASTER: Please send a 
address changes to Virginia Wildlife, P.O. Box 830, Boon 
Iowa 50036. Postage for periodicals paid at Richmond, Vi 
ginia and additional entry offices. 

Copyright 2012 by the Virginia Department of Game an 
Inland Fisheries. All rights reserved. 

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall affoi 
to all persons an equal access to Department programs an 
facilities without regard to race, color, religion, national or 
gin, disability, sex, or age. If you believe that you have bet 
discriminated against in any program, activit)' or facilic 
please write to: Virginia Department of Game and Inlar 
Fisheries, ATTN: Compliance Officer, (4010 West Broa 
Street.) P O. Box 11 104, Richmond, Virginia 23230-1 10- 

This publication is intended for general informational pui 
poses only and every effiart has been made to ensure its n 
curacy. The information contained herein does not serve i 
a legal representation offish and wildlife laws or regulatioa 
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries da 
not assume responsibility for any change in dates, reguu 
tions, or information that may occur after publication. 

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by Clarke C, Jones 


e gotta go!" Pointing gun. . . 
country road. . .wife. . .that's 
all I hear. We are on our way. 
We speed south on Route 20. The blue lights 
are flashing atop the SUV: We are lit up like a 
Christmas tree. 

Up ahead we see a car in our lane. 
Richard hits the siren. On a two-lane, country 
road with hills and turns there are few places to 
pass the slower car. To my amazement, the car 
in front of us makes no attempt to pull over to 
the right and ambles on its way. So, I'm think- 
ing, this is how it looks when you're driving an 
emergency vehicle. I could feel my blood pres- 
sure rise with frustration, impatience. 

"You never know what people are going 
to do in front of you, " mutters Richard. "I 
have had people literally stop in the middle of 
the road on a hill and try to wave me around. 
Of course, you cannot see what is coming 
from the other direction in a situation like 
that, and the person in the car in front of you is 
looking at you — like there is something 
wrong with you? As if on cue, the driver in 
front of us stops in the road, and then makes a 
left turn. I guess the logic here is, "I am only a 
mile from my house so you'll just have to wait 
till I get home. " Incredible! 

Richard steps on the gas and we press on, 
siren waiUng. 

Richard is Conservation Police Officer 
Richard M. Howald, with the Department. 
Packed into Richard's SUV are Jessica 
Wliirley — an officer (CPO) from Prince Ed- 
ward County — me, and Scout, a female 
Labrador retriever. As one of three Labrador 
retrievers used by the Department of Game 
and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) to track suspects. 
Scout also helps find evidence and locate fish 
or other wildlife that may be in the possession 
of or hidden by, a suspected game violator. 
Right now, all we know is that a gun has been 
pointed at a citizen and the address where the 
reported incident has occurred. 

When we arrive at the scene, none of the 
people who were pointing the gun are still 
around. The alleged victim is not on-site but 
his angry, upset wife is. The last thing she is 

thinking about is calming down. If a gun has 
been pointed at your spouse, you can under- 
stand why! 

Richard and Jessica must begin to build 
the case to bring an alleged criminal to justice. 
The woman does not have any license num- 
bers of the vehicles involved. She thinks she 
knows the identities of some of the people 
who pointed the gun at her husband, but 
couldn't swear to it. She says her husband 
does know. Then she tells the officers what 
the laws are regarding possession of firearms 
and hunting along a road. She is wrong. But, 
of course, she can't be wrong because that is 
what her husband told her! 

Here is where problems occur. So many 
people — even lifelong hunters — frequently 
do not know the game laws in their own 
county. There is not much the officers can do 
at this point but ask the wife to have the hus- 
band call them to try to get more informa- 
tion. About a half-hour later, the husband 
calls and Jessica speaks to him. He is upset 
and wants the officers to take action. Jessica 
explains to him that no game laws have been 

broken and that he will need to speak to the 
county magistrate and swear out a warrant 
against the alleged perpetrator for brandish- 
ing a firearm. The man does not like this. I 
can hear his, ahem, displeasure in the com- 
ments coming from the phone Officer 
Whirley is holding to her ear. 

It is the job of the conservation police of- 
ficer to protect not just wildlife, but also the 
hunter's rights and the landowner's rights. 
Protecting all three can lead to confiision and 
frustration. Just before the pointing gun call 
came in, we had spent over three hours 
bouncing around the rutted back roads of 
Cumberland and Buckingham counties, 
checking for possible game violations. I 
quickly realized that the life of a CPO is not 
the glamorous job I thought it was. It is dan- 
gerous, tedious, often thankless work requir- 
ing patience and diplomacy that few of us 
have or would tolerate. Employment as a 
conservation police officer in Virginia may 
look like something you would want to do, 
but only a select few can do this job and do it 
well. It takes exceptional skill and judgment 

CPO Frank Spuchesi with his partner, "Comet," train for evidence recovery with the 
assistance of CPO Wayne Billhimer 


fiMMcC ncoiHCH^! 

to handle non-routine, sometimes life-threat- 
ening, events and make them appear routine. 
For the CPO, hunting season is not only 
a busy season; it can also be a holiday season. 
While you are relaxing at the table with family 
at Thanksgiving, sitting around a cozy fire on 
Christmas Day, or planning New Year's cele- 
brations, our CPOs are patrolling in the cold, 
wind, rain, and snow protecting wildlife, 
property, and you. And because felons like to 
work in the dark, the CPO has to be out then 


When responding to an emergency re- 
port, a CPO may have to quickly drive 20 or 
more miles along winding, rural roads to 
reach the site of the incident. If you are a CPO 
with a Labrador, it is not uncommon to be 
called to a location over two hours from your 
base. So you not only have to know your terri- 
tory and the players in it, you must also know 
all the game laws of the counties in your dis- 
trict, as well as the state. Each county has a cer- 
tain amount of leeway when writing their 
hunting rules — and the rules are not consis- 
tent among localities. During my ride- along 

CPO Wes Billings and partner "Josie" look for 
an article hidden in the ground, as CPO Wayne 
Billhimer looks on. Right, CPO Megan Vick 
works her dog, Jake, during a field exercise. 

A Brief 

The Department's K9 program has 
been generating great results. In fact, 
the original team of three dogs with han- 
dlers (shown right) has recently expanded 
to five, with the addition of "Comet," han- 
dled by CPO Frank Spuchesi, and "Josie," 
handled by CPO Wes Billings. Colonel Dab- 
ney Watts leads the Law Enforcement Divi- 
sion and has only positive things to say 
about the program. 

Col. Watts provided some background 
during a recent interview. He was quick to 
note that DGIF is indebted to the K9 Acade- 
my at the Indiana Dept. of Natural Re- 
sources, a 14-year program run by 
Conservation Officer Jeff Milner, who pro- 
vided training for these dogs and their han- 
dlers at no charge. Other state wildlife 
agencies assisted, too, by sharing with our 
CPOs their experiences and lessons 
learned over the years. Two of the dogs in 
the first "class" were generously donated 
to Virginia's program by the Kansas Dept. of 
Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. 

Virginia's K9 Wildlife Team uses sport- 
ing breeds. The dogs are trained in three 
areas specific to the Department's wildlife 
mission: tracking, wildlife detection, and 
article/evidence recovery. After an inten- 
sive 8-week course, the teams are ready to 
take on assignments. Each dog knows what 
is required during a particular operation by 
the type of collar or harness placed on him 
by the handler. Likewise, in the field the dog 
lets the officer know he has discovered 
something by "alerting" the CPO with a 
specific body movement. In the case of arti- 
cle recovery, for example, the dog would 
make a digging motion. 

With time and experience, K9 partners 
become accustomed to working together 
in the field— a process that can take six to 
eight months. The biggest, single advan- 
tage to the agency is the manpower saved 
during search (and sometimes, rescue) op- 
erations. The K9 team has also proven valu- 
able in educating the public about the work 
our law enforcement officers perform. 
Sporting breeds are a good choice for this 
aspect of the mission, since they are com- 
fortable around people. Officers in the pro- 
gram are available for demonstrations to 
schools and other groups. 

For more information about the pro- 
gram and to make a donation, go to: 


The K9 team was launched with 3 officers, shown here: CPO Vick, with Jake; CPO Billhimer, with 
Justice; and CPO Howald, with Scout— in partnership with the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia. 

with Officers Howald and Whirley, I also 
began to get a clearer picture of how much 
"sufficient" evidence a CPO must have to 
even bring a case to court, much less win it. I 
also got some sense of the volume of paper- 
work and reporting required for each inci- 

A quiet break for lunch today is out of 
the question. We drive on, checking out old 
logging roads and farm roads. As we approach 
a power line easement, we can see that clover 
has been planted in the clearing. We look 
around and discover a blind. The officers 
make a note of it. Sometimes it's these little 
discoveries that lead to bigger things. 

We approach some woods and stop to 
give Scout a quick, mandatory training les- 
son. This must be documented for both 
DGIF and court records when the evidence 
of, or pursuit and capture of, an alleged viola- 
tor involves one of the dogs. Richard places an 
object in the woods along a leafy, logging 
road. Scout does not know where it is. 
Richard paints me the scenario that I have 
spotted someone in the woods who then takes 
off when he sees me. I grab Scout, put on his 
tracking lead, and take off in pursuit. The cul- 
prit has hidden himself, thinking there is no 
way you will find him in these woods with the 
head start he has on you. But then he sees the 
Lab following his tracks, coming toward him. 
About 50 yards away from the officer he bolts 
and throws something to his right. The officer 
apprehends the suspect and learns that he is a 
convicted felon. If the object he threw was a 
gun, the felon now has bigger issues. 

Now the daylight is fading and, in all the 
commotion, the officer only has a general idesi 
of where the object may be. Before the De- 
partment's K9 program started in 20 11 , the 
officer might have to call in one or two other 

officers to help search for the weapon, spend- 
ing time, energy, and the taxpayers' money to 
help locate it. I have a general idea of where the 
object is (the object that the felon threw away) 
and then Officer Howald sends Scout and me 
to look for it. I immediately go in the direction 
I think the object is located. Scout just knows 
she is to look for something. We both walk 
past it. 

I want to outwit the dog in this high- 
stakes Easter egg himt and am looking hard in 
the leaves. Scout comes back to a place we 
passed and "alerts" at a particular location I 
have just covered. Richard gives Scout a verbal 
signal and Scout, by her actions, reinforces the 
fact that she has found something. Richard 
then rewards Scout with about five minutes of 
playtime, which the Lab obviously enjoys. 
Scout has been trained that her "treat" is play 
and she will work her hardest for a litde play- 
time with Richard! 

The value of these Labs is proven almost 
every day. Richard tells me of one violator he 
caught who told him, "I was hoping you were 
off today. I've heard about you and that dog." 

That sentiment is echoed by CPO 
Megan Vick, who initially proposed — and 
persuaded — the Law Enforcement Division 
to consider undertaking a K9 program. Vick 
did her homework and discovered that other 
state wildlife agencies with K9 units had expe- 
rienced great success; yet, the programs are 
young and there are very few wildlife dog han- 
dlers nationwide. 

According to Vick, "One of the immedi- 
ate benefits of this program is the amount of 
manpower we save. If we are looking for a 
shotgim or a shotgun shell, it may take the dog 
six to eight minutes to find it. Without the 
dog, we would need a team of four to five peo- 
ple to be able to cover the same territory, and 



even after hours of work, still may not find 
what we are looking for." Vick's district covers 
much of southeastern Virginia and the East- 
ern Shore — a broad territory and something 
not uncommon for today's CPOs. 

When you think about it, other than a 
spear, man's first hunting aid was a dog. It 
helped him track, find, and run down game, 
and at times, it has acted as an early warning 
device. Hundreds of centuries later, even with 
all the technology a CPO has at his or her dis- 
posal, we have realized the advantage of rein- 
troducing the dog to ^ain track suspects, find 
wild game, and uncover evidence. 

We continue making the rounds and 
head off^ along another country road. We ap- 
proach a pick-up parked off the asphalt near 
some woods. Driving past the truck, we follow 
an old, overgrown farm road deep into Cum- 
berland County. As we turn around a sharp 
bend we suddenly come upon six hunters with 
shotguns. They look the way anyone looks 
who is having a party and some uninvited peo- 
ple decide to crash it. Normally, I wouldn't 
crash a party hosted by people carrying shot- 
guns. Officer Howald tells me to stay in the car 
as he and Officer Whirley get out to check 
everyone's license. The two officers chat a bit 
with the hunters and then ask to see their li- 
censes. It all looks very routine but I could not 
help but wonder how I would react if I was on 
patrol alone and found six hunters who may 
not have been obeying the law. What then? 

After the license check, we head back to 
Cumberland Courthouse and my ride home. 
CPO Whirley has to prepare for a spotlighting 
stakeout, meaning she will not go off duty 
until around midnight — a long day in any- 
one's book. As I say goodbye to Officers 
Howald and Whirley, and assistant Scout, I 
think about special times hunting with my fa- 
ther, or fishing with my friends, and I silently 
give thanks for the conservation police officers 
who safeguard our opportunity to make more 
of those memories in the future. ?f 

Clarke C. Jones is a freelance writer who spends his 
spare time with his black lab, Luke, huntingup 
good stories. You can read more by Clarke at 
www. clarkecjones. com. 

Whether performing evidence recovery 
or tracking or wildlife detection, time is 
a pressing concern. Canine handlers 
and their dogs must be in top physical 



Extolling the virtues 

of the 

house sparrow. 

byJason E.Davis 

' I M A- eve been invaded, but you 
ly \ / probably didn't even notice. 
^ If Those of us living in Vir- 

ginia, and indeed all across North America, 
have been living under an occupying force for 
more than one hundred years now. We see 
these feathery intruders every day in our 
yards, in the eaves of our office buildings, 
darting in and out between cars in the grocery 
store parking lot, but most of us don't pay 
them any real attention. But maybe it's time 
we gave the devil its due. Conquering the 
world isn't easy, and house sparrows have 
done it with room to spare. 

House sparrows are scrappy, ill-tem- 
pered, barbarian birds with an attitude. Be- 
cause house sparrows have made themselves 
at home at the expense of native species, they 
are often looked down upon, even despised, 
by both bird aficionados and environmental- 
ists. But beneath their drab brown and grey 
feathers they carry an array of formidable 
adaptations, including a surprising intellect, 
an adaptable physiology, and an amazing be- 
havioral flexibility that has helped them to be- 
come the most common songbird in the 

House sparrows (sometimes called the 
English sparrow, or Passer domesticus) are na- 
tive to Europe and the Near East. As an old 
world species, house sparrows aren't at all 
closely related to native North American spar- 
rows. In fact, house sparrows and native spar- 
row species — such as song sparrows, swamp 
sparrows, and white-crowned sparrows — 
aren't even in the same family. House spar- 
rows and their distant American cousins may 
be generally the same size and color, but the 
similarities pretty much end there. A closer 
comparison rapidly reveals a large number of 
physical and behavioral diff^erences. House 
sparrows have stubby tails, stocky bodies, and 
thick, wedge-shaped beaks ideal for crunch- 
ing seeds. In comparison, native sparrows are 

The house sparrow is at home in just about any setting and might be considered the 
consummate opportunist. 

generally more slender, with longer, more 
pointed beaks. House sparrows are distinct in 
their social behaviors as well: They flock to- 
gether in large social groupings year-round 
and don't exhibit the kind of territoriality that 
can be found in most native sparrows. This set 
of traits, along with several other somewhat 
less apparent specializations, has given house 
sparrows a huge wing-up in colonizing our 

House sparrows first arrived on North 
American shores in the mid- 1800s. Local 
farmers released a few dozen birds in Brook- 
lyn in 1851, thinking that the birds would 
help keep pest insects under control. House 
sparrows were released several more times at 
different locations around the country 
through the 1 890s, though it seems unlikely 
that they helped much with insect manage- 
ment, since the main part of their diet is com- 
posed of seeds and grain. Since then, the 
house sparrow population has bloomed and 
expanded to the point that recent estimates 
suggest there are now more than 150 million 
house sparrows in the lower 48 states alone. 

Like feathered mice, house sparrows 
have made a home for themselves on our 
streets and alleys. In fact, house sparrows 
seem to prefer to be near us; they have spread 

With a reputation for aggression, house 
sparrows can intimidate other songbirds. 

JUNE 2012 ♦ 11 

Urban environments offer several benefits to house sparrow/s, including generally warmer average 
temperatures and plenty of nooks and crannies for raising their young. 

successful invader; house sparrows are willing 
to eat a variety of foods, from old Cheetos to 
insects to hot dogs to grain to popcorn. Re- 
cent research has even shown that, unlike 
many native songbird species, new popula- 
tions of house sparrows readily investigate 
unfamiliar types of food and explore areas far 
away from cover. This boldness almost cer- 
tainly gives them an advantage when moving 
into new environments where familiar re- 
sources and refuges may be missing. 

House sparrows exhibit a variety of other 
traits that seem tailor-made for exploitation 
of an urban environment. Recent studies 
have shown that house sparrows have particu- 
larly strong immune systems, which likely 
serve them well when feeding in our trash 
piles and garbage dumps. They are also non- 
migratory, a feature that might seem to be a 
weakness for surviving cold winters, but is ac- 
tually a strength when they can seek refuge in 
warm attics and crawlspaces to while-away 
the winter nights instead of undertaking dan- 
gerous and exhausting long-distance travel. 
House sparrows also have a flexible reproduc- 
tive system that can easily go into overdrive. 
In well-provisioned environments house 
sparrows can hatch out three or more broods 
per year, compared to many other songbird 
species that produce at most two broods. 

Much like discontented humans, house 
sparrows often don't make good neighbors, at 
least not for native bird species. House spar- 
rows have a reputation for belligerence and 
are often seen fighting with members of their 
own and other species. Their innate aggres- 
sion, along with their strong, thick beaks, 
makes house sparrows a potential threat to 

alongside us and demonstrate a marked pref- 
erence for cities and towns over rural areas. 
This isn't to say that urban areas are easy places 
to live, even for the scrappy house sparrow. 
Cities are loud, bright, polluted, and chock 
full of an ever-shifting array of hazards and 
challenges. However, if you can stand the 
stresses of urban life, there are some definite 
advantages to living in towns. Cities boast 
warmer average temperatures, multitudinous 
nooks and crannies that can be used as nest- 
ing sites, a general reduction in most natural 
types of predators and competitors, and a 

near-constant supply of food from both bird 
feeders and garbage. It might not be the most 
glamorous of lifestyles, but being a "rat bird" 
can certainly pay off. 

In the past 30 years, more than a thou- 
sand scientific studies have been done on 
house sparrows. This research has provided 
substantial insights, not only into the nature 
of the house sparrow itself, but also into the 
fundamentals of fields such as endocrinology, ^ I 
immunology, reproductive biology, and ecol- 
ogy. From die house sparrow we have learned ^ strong Immune system helps the house 
that culinary curiosity helps a species to be a sparrow tolerate things like street garbage. 

12 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.Com 

Like the house sparrow, the Pyracantha shrub (shown here) can thrive in many environments. 

other songbirds. House sparrows have been 
documented stealing nesting sites, harassing 
aduhs, and destroying the eggs of native song- 

However, despite being equipped for 
conquest, it is difficult to determine how 
much of a threat house sparrows actually pose 
to native bird populations. Areas inhabited by 
house sparrows often have a less diverse array 
of other songbird species, but these are also 
typically areas that have undergone a large 
amount of human modification. How much 
of the impact on native populations can be 
laid at the scaly feet of house sparrows and 
how much is actually due to direct human in- 

tervention is hard to say, but is certainly a 
question worth investigating further. 

Despite all we've learned about them, 
there are still house sparrow mysteries waiting 
to be unraveled. Perhaps the greatest of these 
is why house sparrows do so well in many 
places, but fare poorly in others. House spar- 
row populations are waning in their Euro- 
pean homeland. In England alone, house 
sparrow populations have declined by more 
than 50 percent since 1975. There are a vari- 
ety of theories regarding the cause of house 
sparrows' European decline, from changes in 
^ricultural practices, to differences between 
populations descended from colonists, like 

those in North America, versus populations 
descended from homebodies, like those in 
Europe. However, none of these theories has 
yet presented a definitive answer. 

Regardless of whether you love them or 
hate them, there can be little doubt that house 
sparrows are here to stay. The next time you 
see one, keep in mind that though they may 
be down and dirty, raucous and pushy, they're 
actually one of the most interesting things on 
the wing. ?f 

Jason E. Davis is an assistant professor of biology at 
Radford University. His research focuses on 
physiological processes in wild animals. 

JUNE 2012 ♦ 13 


"'^ \ 


mi Ai 

m ^ 

An entire army of 

freshwater creatures 

supports the fish you 

love to catch. 

by Marie Majorov 

Serious anglers know that the health 
and vitality of Virginias native brook 
trout, smallmouth bass, rainbow 
trout, and all other fish species, as well as the 
waters in which they swim, are intricately 
linked to a fascinating world of wiggly, squig- 
gly, variously shaped critters known as benth- 
ic macro-invertebrates (BMIs). But to those 
of you who don't fish: Their environmental 
importance is HUGE! 

BMIs are quite simply animals that have 
no backbone, live all or part of their lives in 
freshwater environments, arid are big enough 

to be seen without magnification; however, 
they are anything but simple. The word "ben- 
thic" comes from the Greek benqos, meaning 
bottom — referring to the bottom of lakes, 
rivers, and streams where BMIs mosdy live. 
"Benthos," as these little guys are sometimes 
referred to, range from the tiniest pencil point 
sized "no-see-ums" to crayfish as big as 6 inch- 
es, and number close to 9,000 ingeniously 
adapted species. 

Larval and nymph stage insects, mol- 
lusks, worms, leeches, and crayfish comprise 
the most common BMI found in Virginias 
fresh waters. 

BMIs are middlemen, an essential link 


that BMIs "are absolutely vital to the survival 
of our fish. If this food source were lost, our 
fish wotild be gone." BMIs have another, less- 
er known but critically important environ- 
mental role: Their presence, absence, or 
abundance serves as a remarkably effective in- 
dicator of water quality and stream health. 
Fisheries biologist Paul Bugas describes BMI 
measurements as an "extremely valuable tool" 
used by the Department (DGIF) in manage- 
ment efforts to preserve precious fisheries and 

A (diverse Assemblage 

Classification of BMIs, complex and intrigu- 
ing, follows a number of dimensions. Only 
the most basic can be described here. The first 
is habitat: the fast- or slow-moving, cold or 
warm waters of seeps, streams, rivers, bogs, 
marshes, swamps, ponds, and lakes, where 
the bottom contains a great diversity of mate- 
rials — from boulders, cobble, pebbles, gravel, 
sand, silt, and clay, to logs, leaves, detritus, 
algae, and a variety of aquatic plants. Yes, 
BMIs are everywhere in our freshwater sys- 
tems, and they need specific body shapes and 
methods to maneuver in order to survive in 
their particular habitat. 

"dingers" have strong legs for holding 
on and flat bodies that reduce drag from 

in the aquatic food chain. In streams, life-sus- 
taining energy and nutrients are found in fall- 
en leaves, algae, aquatic plants, micro- 
organisms, and similarly sized animals — all of 
which are fodder for BMIs. These necessities 
pass on to the fish that feed on the BMIs or are 
released back into the water when the BMI 
die and decay. Fish forward these nutrients 
further up the food chain to those that eat 
them: birds (herons, egrets, bald eagles, king- 
fishers, for example), raccoons, water snakes, 
and yes, even fishermen who enjoy a fine fish 

Carl Rettenberger, Winchester Trout 
Unlimited BMI/fly-tying educator, states 

water flow (flathead mayflies and water pen- 
nies), while others produce a stick}' silk to 
glue themselves to surfaces in riffles and fast 
moving streams (non-biting midges). Still 
others, casemaker caddisflies for example, 
make intricate cases from pebbles or bits of 
leaves to attach themselves to rock surfaces. 

Climbing is another form of locomo- 
tion. "Climbers" have spindly legs, (think 
dragon- and damselfly larvae), an adaption 
that enables movement up and down aquatic 
plants to feed and, when ready, to hatch into 
their familiar, beautiful adult winged form, 
climb out of the water, and take flight. 
Climbers are capable of ssvimming but do so 
only if necessar)', in contrast to "swimmers" 
like the ameletid minnow maj'flies which flex 
their bodies to actively move themselves 
through the water or paddle with specially de- 
signed legs and tails. Much of the time, 
though, swimmers remain perched on rocks, 
pieces of wood, plants, or coarse detritus. 

"Crawlers" such as common stoneflies 
and hellgrammites seek small, protected 

Shenandoah Chapter VMN and Friends of the North Fork, Shenandoah River carefully sort and 
count BMIs during a sampling project. Left, Winchester TU members follow Save Our Streams 
sampling protocol using a kick seine on Redbud Run. 

JUNE 2012 ♦ 15 



BMIs are sorted into taxa using ice cube trays 
filled with stream water. Left, the shadow 
darner spends its larval stage as BMI, growing 
and developing under water. 

places and crawl slowly, using their legs and 
tarsal claws. They need firm surfaces unlike the 
"sprawlers" and "burrowers" (crane flies) 
which have adapted to move on top of or dig 
down into fine sediments of sand, silt, and clay. 
A final, very small group of BMI, "skaters" 
(think water striders), is uniquely adapted to 
remain on the surface of slow waters. 

BMIs are also classified according to 
their varied feeding methods. "Shredder-de- 
tritivores" (giant stoneflies) feed on large 
pieces of dead plant material, while "shred- 
der-herbivores" (northern casemaker stone- 
flies) prefer living aquatic plants. "Collectors" 
acquire and ingest very small particles of de- 
tritus, some with innovative filters such as the 
nets spun by common net spinner caddisflies. 
Others, collector-gatherers (non-biting 
midges and aquatic worms), gather tidbits 
that are lying on the bottom or mixed with 
sediment. Algae growing on rocks and hard 
surfaces provide "scrapers" and "grazers" with 
a nutritious aquatic salad bar. Still other BMIs 
use piercing methods to suck fluids: from 
plants, the "piercer-herbivores" (micro-cad- 
disflies); and from animals, "piercer-preda- 
tors" (water scorpions). Finally, 
"engulfer-predators" such as free-living cad- 
disflies, common stoneflies, and dragonflies 
feed on animals by swallowing them whole or 
in pieces. 

Stress tolerance, or the ability to with- 
stand various types of disturbances (organic 
pollutants, sediments, and toxicants) in their 
environment, is perhaps one of the most im- 
portant dimensions on which to classify 
BMIs. Some organisms are very sensitive to 

\T Good BMIs make for healthy streams and 

beautiful fish like this rainbow trout. 

A healthy smallmouth bass is shown to 
VMN by DGIF fisheries biologist Paul Bugas 
during an electrofishing demonstration. 

pollutants (stoneflies and many mayflies) and 
their presence, especially in high numbers, in- 
dicates healthy, almost pristine water condi- 
tions; just what brook and rainbow trout 
need to thrive. Others are very tolerant of en- 
vironmental stressors and their presence in 
large numbers, especially in the absence of the 
sensitive BMIs, suggests compromised water 
quality and poor conditions for sustaining 
fish. And of course there are a range of condi- 
tions between these two extremes. 

BMIs are usually described using all of 
these dimensions. To illustrate, riffle beetles: 
can be present in both slow- and fast-moving 
waters, are primarily dingers preferring peb- 
bly and stony areas, and are usually scrapers or 
collector-gatherers somewhat sensitive to 
stress. Materials and guides with such descrip- 
tions, detailed life history, biological informa- 
tion, and color drawings, are essential tools to 
those wishing to identify BMIs. Freshwater 
Invertebrates by Voshell is one of the most 
popularly used references. 

I^MI Sampling ^ Education 

Unlike fish, BMIs cannot move great dis- 
tances to avoid water pollutants, stormwater 
runoff, or naturally occurring stressors to 
their environment. They are a relatively stable 
community of organisms, often long-lived, 
that therefore reflect the effects of sediments 
and pollutants over time, thus adding critical 
information to enlarge the picture of stream 
conditions gained from the snapshots provid- 
ed by chemical water analysis and fish moni- 

Using a seine net, BMIs are collected 
from the area to be sampled. Keeping them 
wet, they are placed on a light-colored flat 
surface and carefully sorted by type into white 
trays (ice cube trays) filled with stream water. 
A variety of indices based on the total num- 
ber of species, relative percentages of sensitive 
and tolerant species, and the most dominant 
species are calculated. Observations about the 
habitat and conditions seen at the site are 

"DGIF conducts BMI surveys when in- 
vestigating particular issues," states Bugas, 
adding, "Ongoing monitoring of Virginias 
more than 400 streams requires strong part- 
nership efforts. The Department relies on the 
ongoing monitoring efforts and databases of 
the Virginia Department of Environmental 
Quality (tasked with implementing the fed- 
eral Clean Water Act in the commonwealth) 
and Virginia Save Our Streams (VASOS)." 

Bugas particularly extols the BMI sam- 
pling protocol and training opportunities de- 
veloped by VASOS for citizen science, and 
the organization of "friends" groups — such 
as Friends of the North Fork of the Shenan- 
doah River and Friends of the Middle River 
(Bugas himself is a member of this group) — 
which help to implement BMI sampling and 
educate the public about clean water. Virginia 
Master Naturalists study BMI identification 
and sampling methods as part of their train- 
ing and also work closely with river groups. 
Trout Unlimited chapters actively participate 
in monitoring the streams where they fish 
and put in significant preservation work. 

BMI sampling is a wonderful way to 
give our youth a hands-on, stewardship expe- 
rience and teach them the value of preserving 
our watersheds. Cacapon Institute (CI), a 
West Virginia organization which works co- 
operatively with DGIF in a variety of forums 
regarding mutual efforts to preserve the 
Chesapeake Bay, believes that science and ed- 
ucation are essential in the protection of our 
rivers and watersheds. To that end, CI has de- 
veloped a truly unique Watershed e-School 
and innovative materials used by numerous 
schools throughout Virginia as part of the 
"meaningful watershed experience" required 
for all 6* and 9* grade students. Go online 
yourself or with your children, click on the 
school door of the "Potomac Highlands Wa- 
tershed School," then the "BMI Portal," — 

free resources to all, and a terrific way to learn 
more about BMI identification and sampling 
as well as watershed conservation. In particular, 
try the "Virtual Stream Sampler" activity that 
simulates a BMI stream sampling trip (based 
on real stream data) and includes stream scor- 
ing using the VASOS method. 

Be forewarned, studying and monitoring 
BMIs is fun and exciting and you could easily 
become hooked on trying to identify these 
spineless treasures! ?f 

Virginia Master Naturalist Marie Majarov 
(www. majarov. com) lives in Winchester with husband 
Milan. Both nature enthusiasts are active in the 
Virginia and the Mason-Dixon outdoor writers assoc. 

For More Information on 
Benthic Macro-Invertebrates: 

♦ Cacapon Institute's Watershed 

♦ Friends ofthe Middle River: 

♦ Friends ofthe North Fork ofthe 
Shenandoah River: 

♦ A Guide to Common Freshwater Inverte- 
brates of North America, by J. Reese 
Voshell, Jr Published by The MacDonald 
& Woodward Publishing Co., 2002. 

♦ Virginia Master Naturalists: 

♦ Virginia Save our Streams: 

♦ Winchester Trout Unlimited: 


This online BMI learning portal is a project 
ofthe Cacapon Institute (link above). 

JUNE 2012 ♦ 17 

by GlendaC, Booth 

When studying widespread fish kills 
and fish disease in several Virginia 
rivers berween 2005 and 2008, sci- 
entists found suspicious lesions on a number 
of fish species. Upon closer inspection, they 
also discovered mysterious abnormalities to 
reproductive organs in some. 

Dr. Vicki Blazer, a U.S. Geological Sur- 
vey (USGS) fish pathologist, has found two 
forms of feminization in fish: the presence of 
vitellogenin, a precursor of egg yolk, in male 
fish blood; and what scientists call intersex, 
precursors of egg cells — that female fish nor- 
mally produce — in the testes of male fish, 
mosdy bass and sunfish. In 2006, for exam- 
ple, in three Potomac tributaries scientists 

foimd that more than 80 percent of all male 
smallmouth bass were growing e^s. 

Generally, intersex refers to aji organism 
having the characteristics of both sexes, when 
the organism should be one, distinct sex. The 
fish look normal to the naked eye and to the 
amateur, but the fish is abnormal, with a dis- 
turbance of the hormonal system called en- 
docrine disruption. Sciendsts are seeing fish 
with endocrine disruption all over the coun- 

These findings have sparked studies tar- 
geting what are called endocrine disrupting 
compounds (EDCs), chemicals that interfere 
with the endocrine function of fish. "En- 
docrine disruptors are widespread in the envi- 
ronment," says Blazer. 

In addition to uncovering the intersex 

phenomenon, USGS scientists have deter- 
mined that a high incidence of intersex occurs 
at sites in the Potomac watershed where farm- 
ing is most intense and where human popula- 
tion density is the highest. And they've 
concluded that the greatest prevalence of in- 
tersex occurs in the spring, just before and 
during the spawning season. 

In Virginia, scientists have found intersex 
fish in the upper James, Shenandoah, Cow- 
pasture, Jackson, and Rappahannock rivers, as 
well as the South Branch of the Potomac River 
(West Virginia). In terms of species, Blazer has 
seen intersex in small- and largemouth bass 
and occasionally in redbreast sunfish. Scien- 
tists have not analyzed fish in many Virginia 
rivers; therefore, the fiill extent or occurrence 
of the intersex condition is unknown. 




©Lynda Richardson 


Are there "hotspots"? Blazer says she's 
seen a high prevalence and high severity in the 
Shenandoah River's North and South forks. 
"On the Shenandoah, rates of intersex were 
highest — ranging from 80 to 1 00 percent in- 
tersex in male smallmouth bass," she reports. 
The sample size from some of these rivers was 
small, at fewer than 50 fish. 

Intersex fish have also been documented 
in wild fish populations in the St. Lawrence, 
Columbia, Rio Grande, and Mississippi 
rivers, in Colorado waterways, and in certain 
areas of the Great Lakes. 

Suspicious Lesions 

Also troubling are fish with lesions, according 
to Steve Reeser, a fisheries biologist with the 
DGIF who has found fish attacked by bacte- 

ria with lesions on the gills and skin. Some re- 
searchers theorize that EDCs are compromis- 
ing fish immune systems, making the fish 
more vulnerable to pathogens. However, 
other scientists suspect that primary 
pathogens could be the direct cause of the le- 
sions and mortality. 

Working with USGS bacteriologist Dr. 
Rocco Cipriano as early as 2007 in the upper 
James and Shenandoah river systems, DGIF 
biologists documented one particular species 
of bacteria (Aeromonas salmonicida) causing 
the lesions in both rivers. This species of bac- 
teria is "fairly ubiquitous" in colder waters, 
Reeser reports. 

"The location of disease and mortality 
were not consistent from year to year, but 
they were always a spring event when water 

was in a particular temperature range. The 
virulence of bacteria appears to be tied to 
water temperature, and rivers with ground- 
water influence are more affected. The bacte- 
ria cannot survive above about 80 degrees 
Fahrenheit. The reason DGIF has been fo- 
cusing on a primary bacterial pathogen as the 
direct cause of the lesions and mortality is 
that the bacteria has only been encountered 
where and when fish disease has been ob- 
served. The bacteria has not been cultured 
from fish in areas where we have never seen 
sick fish, nor from the affected rivers when 
the fish appear healthy. Overall, there is not 
enough conclusive evidence to link the inter- 
sex condition observed in these fish to the dis- 
ease and mortality events that have occurred 
in Virginia's rivers, " Reeser contends. 

JUNE 2012 ♦ 19 

Scientists across Virginia are studying fisli lesions in an effort to determine causes. The striped bass 
siiown here is from sampling performed in the lower Chesapeake Bay watershed, courtesy of the 
Multispecies Research Group at VIMS. 

Why Is This Happening? 

The endocrine system secretes hormones that 
govern many fimaions, including sexual and 
reproductive development in all vertebrate 
species, including fish and humans. Endocrine 
systems regulate biological processes through 
hormones such as estrogen, androgen, and 
thyroid. Chemical compounds appear to 
block, mimic, or disrupt the normal functions 
of the endocrine system of some aquatic 

"Environmental contaminants may dis- 
rupt endocrine function," according to a 
USGS report. "In terms of causes, there is no 
specific chemical, but complex mixtures from 
multiple sources that can have effects. They 
can affect the endocrine and immune systems 
and make fish more susceptible to opportimis- 
ric pathogens," explains Blazer. 

Compounds are everywhere, from sham- 
poo to food containers, from suntan lotion to 
clothing. Over 1 ,000 new compounds are in- 
troduced every year, reports the Potomac Con- 
servanc)'. "Our waterways are becoming a soup 
of hormones, antibiotics, painkillers, and other 
drugs," states Katherine Baer, senior director of 
the Clean Water Program at American Rivers. 

"While we still have more questions 
than answers, the good news is that 
the severity of the fish disease and mor- 
tality have declined the past two years 
in both rivers and the fish populations 
are viable, "sums up Reeser. 

EDCs enter the environment through 
several pathways. The average American fills 
1 2 prescriptions a year, reports the Kaiser Fam- 
ily Foundation. Drugs can leave the human 
body almost intact or unchanged, according to 
Baer. Pharmaceuticals are especially troubling 

becaiise they are designed to alter biological 
processes, the effects of chronic exposures are 
poorly imderstood, and drug consiunption 
grows each year. 

Other possible sources of chemicals: 

♦ Substances from cosmetics and body lo- 
tions are rinsed off and flushed into 
wastewater systems. 

♦ Veterinary pharmaceuticals and hor- 
mones fi-om livestock operations drain 
off agricultural land. 

♦ Some natural hormones and antibiotics 
used in animal feeding operations pass 
through animals and enter the environ- 
ment through animal waste. 

♦ Compounds like estrogen from birth 
control pills and hormone replacements 
flow through sewer systems into water 

♦ Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can 
leach into streams. 

♦ EDCs like polychlorinated biphenyls 
(PCBs), dioxins, bisphenol-A (BPA) 
and phthalates get into rivers and 
streams from industrial operations. 
Reeser puts it like this: "Chemical con- 
taminants are the 500-pound gorilla in the 
room, because our rivers are a soup of chemi- 
cals." He cautions, however, that natural 
things can affect fish immune systems too, es- 
pecially in the spring. Fish come out of the 
winter with a suppressed immune system, he 
explains. Spawning is a natural stressor that 
taxes the immune system, compounding 
both natural and unnatural pressures. 

Searching for Answers 

Scientists are quick to say that they need 
more answers. They need better data on in- 
tersex fish, lesions, seasonal variations, fish 
kills, and fish reproduction at a population 
level. The USGS and DGIF are currendy col- 

lecting long-term trend information from 
monitoring sites in the upper James and 
Shenandoah rivers. 

Scientists want to bener understand the 
prevalence of certain chemicals and the effects 
of land uses, wastewater effluent, pesticides, 
herbicides, and hormones in manure. They 
want to learn if some chemicals by themselves 
are harmful and what happens when chemicals 
interact wdth other chemicals. Researchers need 
to ascertain what concentrations or exposures 
have harmful effects. 

Blazer suggests keeping animals like 
cows out of rivers, using fragrance- 
and dye-fee products, minimizing 
the use of herbicides and pesticides, 
and avoiding anti-micro bial soaps 
containing triclocarban. 

". . . We still don't know why certain 
species seem more prone to this condition or 
exacdy what is causing it. In fact, the causes for 
intersex may vary by location, and we suspect it 
will be unlikely that a single human activity or 
kind of contaminant will explain intersex in all 
species or regions," USGS biologist Jo Ellen 
Hinck has said. 

"Trying to determine if EDCs are a con- 
tributing factor in fish health issues in mid-At- 
lantic rivers is extremely difficult and 
profoundly complex. There are probably hun- 
dreds of thousands of chemical compounds 
found in these rivers and it is not known at what 
levels (even extremely low concentrations) they 


tt "tltt^-^ 'W 

-a microscope, tnecens of normal testes 
look like this. (Slide images, courtesy of Vicki S. 
Blazer, U.S. Geological Survey.) 


can negatively affect aquatic organisms," 
Reeser exphiins. 

A March 14 report in the journal of the 
Endocrine Society examining hundreds of 
studies of hormone-altering chemicals over 
three years concluded that health effects "are 
remarkably common" when people or animals 
are exposed to low doses of EDCs." Linda 
Birnbaum, director of the National Institute 
of Environmental Health Sciences, responded 
to the study by supporting testing EDCs in 
"ultra-low doses relevant to real human expo- 
sures." Some industry officials argued that low 
dose effects have not been established. 

"While we still have more questions than 
answers, the good news is that the severity of 
the fish disease and mortality have declined 
the past two years in both rivers and the fish 
populations are viable," sums up Reeser. 

What Can We Do? 

Wastewater treatment processes are not de- 
signed to treat or remove these contaminants. 
Virginia does not issue health advisories for 
EDCs. Virginia's Department of Environ- 
mental Quality (DEQ) will investigate a site 
"if we identify a particular situation to try to 
find a cause of any demonstrated water quality 
problem," says Fred Cunningham, DEQ 
Water Permit Manager. "It's really a national 
issue," he adds. "There's a big concern on the 
drinking water side. " 

The U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA) is conducting research to deter- 
mine the extent of impact of EDCs on hu- 
mans, wildlife, and the environment — EPA's 

Elaine Francis reported during a June 20 1 1 
conference at George Mason University — in 
hopes of developing risk assessments and 
management options. Federal water laws do 
not regulate many substances that affect 
aquatic and human health. 

Some advocates argue for water qualit}' 
standards to address EDCs and upgrading 
wastewater treatment systems. The Potomac 
Conservancy is pushing for "measurable, ac- 
tionable solutions," says its president, 
Hedrick Belin. 

Blazer suggests keeping animals like 
cows out of rivers, using fragrance- and dye- 
free products, minimizing the use of herbi- 
cides and pesticides, and avoiding 
anti-microbial soaps containing triclocarban. 
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is working 
to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cos- 
metics and personal care products, from de- 
odorants to aftershaves. "Trash and every- 
thing else you throw in the river affects the 
fish," notes Blazer 

Keeping drugs out of waterways is criti- 
cal, say American Rivers advocates. Their 
data show that 54 percent of Americans 
throw unused drugs in the trash, where they 
can leach into groundwater supplies from 
landfills, and around 35 percent of Ameri- 
cans and many medical facilities flush unused 

Keeping drugs out of waterways 
is critical, say American Rivers 

drugs down the toilet and into local waterways. 
Some localities like Fairfax County aaively dis- 
courage flushing drugs down the toilet. 

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Adminis- 
tration holds drug take-back days to safely 
discard medications. The 20 1 1 event collect- 
ed over 377,086 pounds (188.5 tons!) of un- 
wanted medications at 5,327 sites across all 
50 states. In one day, Fairfax County police 
collected over 280 pounds at three police sta- 
tions. Check DEA's website for the next one. 

And, for the Angler 

What does this all mean for Virginia's anglers? 
Blazer's answer: "From our chemical analyses, 
when we look at different fish tissues, the low- 
est levels for many of the new chemicals are in 
fish muscle, which is what people eat. A lot of 
the new chemicals are not accumulating in 
the muscle. So eating fish is not necessarily an 
issue for humans. Humans will get exposed 
in many other ways." 

In recent years, DGIF has not seen a de- 
cline in fish populations that the agency can 
attribute to fish disease. Factors other than 
poor water quality, such as nesting fish that 
are exposed to strong flows, can also affect 
their numbers. "We've had good spawning 
success the last five to six years, " says Reeser. 
That bodes well for strong year classes offish 
and that, of course, determines how good 
fishing will be in the years to come. ?f 

Glenda C Booth, a freelance writer and member of 
VOWA, grew up in Southwest Virginia and has lived 
in Northern Virginia over 30 years, where she is 
active in conservation efforts. 

■ •?:. i>vr- ,<i': 









fiUsex'l!ii!!fl!iiiUimi|&lo^(tytes(b l ack 
irrows) within the testes, which also have sperm 
yellow arrow). 


Fact Sheet, "Intersex Fish, Endocrine Disruption in Smallmouth Bass," 

Disposal of Home Pharmaceuticals, Virginia Department of 
Environmental Quality, http://www.deq.virginia.gOv/Portals/0/DEQ/ 

Fact Sheet, "Don't Flush Your Medications," Fairfax County 

♦ National Drug Take-Back Initiative, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 

♦ Fact Sheet, Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products, U.S. Environmental 
Protection Agency, http;// 

♦ Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Environmental Working Group, 

♦ The Potomac Conservancy, 2009 State of the Nation's River report, 

JUNE 2012 ♦ 21 

ise Ciref * Natwre Paric 

When Public/Private Partnerships Go Wild, Everyone Wins 

An aerial view of Paradise Creek Park reveals its close relationship to the surrounding community. 

"Parks support public health, the economy, the environment, education, and 
community cohesion. . .parks produce measurable environmental and commu- 
nity savings. Citizens devoted to creating and revitalizing neighborhood parks 

help create safe communities. " 

-The City Park Alliance 

by Beth Hester 

images courtesy of the 
Elizabeth River Project 

They're calling it Portsmouth's "big 
dig." To date, 350,000 cubic yards 
of river silt, clay, and industrial 
dredge spoil have been excavated from an area 
formerly known as the mud flats to help create 
a 40-acre urban nature park and wildlife nurs- 
ery in the heart of Portsmouth's heavily indus- 
trialized Elizabeth River corridor. The park 
initiative was heralded in the recent Growing 
America's Outdoor Heritage and Economy 
White House conference on community-dri- 
ven conservation efforts. 

Once completed, Paradise Creek Nature 
Park will be the third largest park in 
Portsmouth — and the only park specifically 
designed to promote appreciation of the natu- 
ral world, be a haven for wildlife and a nursery 
for fish, and give the community access to one 
of the region's most successfiil restoration ini- 
tiatives. The park conserves 40 acres on the 
southern branch of the river and will include 
1 1 acres of restored wetlands, plus mature for- 
est. The park has been designed to incorporate 
green development practices and will boast a 
wind- and sun-powered interpretive center, 
two miles of hiking trails, a tidal garden', a 
canoe/kayak launch, a large earthworks sculp- 
ture, playground, outdoor classrooms, and 
picnic pavilions — even composting toilets. 
Creating the park can be a tactical challenge, 
especially in the more compact, forested areas, 

( ITI 



-►- #: 





'^ rfl 



, Over 70 community volunteers cleaned up debris uncovered after phragmites was removed along a section of park land. 








^r - '' 

^^m.^ 1 



)M'' •'■ 


•• 1 ■. '; /- - ^ i 


■ ■ V- • ' 

Area students explore the park's 'living 







^H"'^'*'' ..^H 

but agile construction and landscaping teams 
are constandy devising low-impact construc- 
tion methods. 

A pedestrian bridge will link adjacent 
neighborhoods to the park. Community sup- 
port for the park has been overwhelming, and 
they're already calling it "a place of peace" 
within the busding, historic seaport town. 

The nature park is what Elizabeth River 
Project (EPR) founder and Executive Direc- 
tor Marjorie Mayfield Jackson has called the 
crown jewel of an innovative 250-acre envi- 
ronmental program led by the non-profit or- 
ganization. It's part of a sub-watershed 
restoration plan, one that is becoming a 
model for restoring the greater Elizabeth 
River and the Chesapeake Bay "one creek at a 
time." Joe Reiger directs watershed restora- 
tion for the ERP and explains how the Para- 
dise Creek Nature Park embodies this 

"Almost twenty years ago when we ini- 
tially began to look at ways to clean up con- 
taminated areas around the watershed, we 
had rather scattered tactics. We worked on a 

number of projects around the river, but what 
happened was that in a 200-square-mile wa- 
tershed, doing a project here and a project 
there, well, you don't completely realize the 
impact of your work. We knew that we need- 
ed more than a shotgun approach, so we start- 
ed to look at river remediation and restoration 
on the sub-watershed level, and after several 
years we developed a plan to concentrate a 
great deal of our work on sub-watersheds 
along the river where everyone can see, and 
feel, the collective benefit of these efforts." 

The Paradise Creek area is a perfect ex- 
ample of this approach, as it's a microcosm of 
the entire watershed; it is partially residential, 
partially commercial, and heavily industrial- 
ized. Four superfund sites along the creek — 
largely legacies of wartime shipyard 
activity — have been remediated by the U.S. 
Navy and transformed into wildlife-friendly, 
warm-season grass meadows. 

Since its inception, the ERP has forged a 
unique partnership of public/private con- 
cerns for the benefit of the region. The Para- 
dise Creek Nature Park project showcases the 

l-^ ^■ 


The artist renditions here and on pp. 22-23 help park visitors envision ail the amenities to be offered upon project completion. 

A local Young Life group enthusiastically 
pitches in to trim invasive vines. 

powerful impact of ongoing conservation and 
restoration partnerships that range from the 
National Fish & Wildhfe Foundation, the 
U.S. Navy, die Virginia Port Authority, the 
University of Virginia School of Architec- 
ture, Enviva LE, Giant Cement, SPSA, CSX 
Transportation, the U.S. Army Corps of En- 
gineers, and the Virginia Department of En- 
vironmental Quality, to various foundations, 
garden clubs, and civic leagues. Park con- 
struction may be in its first phase, but already 
the beneficial effects are reverberating 
throughout the community. 

The public entrance to the park was once 
a garbage and phragmites-filled border flank- 
ing a busy roadway and concealing an im- 
promptu transient encampment. Now, 
people driving past this strip of land will enjoy 
a changing seasonal palette of native plants 
and vegetation. Tbe adjoining parking area is 
constructed of pervious gravel paving to re- 
duce stormwater runoff, and the medians will 
perform double-duty as rain gardens. 

Varieties of wildlife species are currently 
reclaiming this revitalized area as their own, 
and a recent survey undertaken by an Old 
Dominion University ornithology team dis- 
covered 14 species of birds. Box turtles have 

been spotted, and there are fox, osprey, garter 
snakes, and a great horned owl. A nearby oys- 
ter reef at the mouth of the creek was created 
by community volunteers, and 1 6 species of 
healthy fish have been recorded using these 
new piscatorial amenities. An exciting part of 
the wetland creation is the formation of an 
open channel that will link the wetlands di- 
rectly to Paradise Creek, thus creating a viable 
nursery for fish, crabs, and local aquatic life. 

The nature park also will serve as a 
teacher training base and living laboratory for 
students. The Portsmouth Public School Sys- 
tem is already creating a "wetlands in the 
classroom" curriculum that will support SOL 
mandates. The programs of study will in- 
clude an osprey initiative, pre-school wild- 
flower program, and oyster reef experience. 

Volunteers, including participants from 
the Boy Scouts and Young Life Association, 
have logged many hours cutting back inva- 
sive vines, growing wildflowers for park 
plantings, and acting as de facto park ambas- 
sadors, cultivating beneficial long-term sup- 
port for the park's initiatives among area 
youth. During an official groundbreaking 

ceremony. Young Life/I.C. Norcom High 
School representative Ulysses Keeling 
thanked the ERP and other project sponsors 
for involving them in the project, calling their 
experience "a beautiful thing." 

Paradise Creek Nature Park will be a liv- 
ing legacy for generations to come. From a 
macro-perspective, it anchors an ever-grow- 
ing, thriving network of clean river initiatives 
within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Closer 
to home, the park and complementary ERP 
conservation and reclamation projects further 
the collective goal of making the Elizabeth 
River swimmable and fishable once again. ?f- 

Beth Hester is a writer and freelance photographer 
from Portsmouth. Her passions include reading, 
shooting kayaking, fishing tyingsaltwater flies, 
and tending her herb garden. 


For more information on Paradise Creek 
and other Elizabeth River Project 
initiatives, visit: 

■ . \ 

•^^:: ;^- 



■^r^^^ .-.--, ^ — » 


Volunteers place seed oysters at the mouth of the creek. Craddock neighborhood residents and 
Boy Scout Troop 222 will grow oysters in floats for summer planting. 



viy.:w^. .^ 

by Bruce Ingram 

r I ver my 33 years of marriage, 

I 1 the worst thing I recall is that 

\^^^ day in September 2008, when 
Elaine was diagnosed with breast cancer. One 
of the best things in her revitalization, after 
seven months of chemotherapy and a double 
mastectomy, has been her participation in a 
Casting for Recovery (CFR) retreat in May of 

Launching in 1996 with four retreats 
and now offering 46 retreats in 33 states in- 
cluding Virginia, CFR is a national, non- 
profit organization that supports breast 
cancer survivors through activities that com- 
bine fly fishing, counseling, and medical in- 
formation to create an emphasis on wellness 
instead of illness. Why fly fishing, though? 

Lori Simon, executive director for CFR, 
believes that just being out in nature provides 
healing qualities, both mentally and physical- 
ly, and teaching participants how to fly fish 
helps connect them to the outdoor world. 

"The motions of casting a fly also gently 
stimulate and heal the muscles affected by ra- 
diation or surgery," added Simon. 

A breast cancer survivor herself Carolyn 
Harvey is program coordinator and retreat 

leader for the Virginia events. She plans a 
budget and performs fiindraising, communi- 
ty outreach, participant recruitment, and vol- 
unteer recruitment and training. Her 
introduction to CFR came in 2003 as a par- 

"The staff treated us as royalty and made 
the experience something to last for a life- 
time," she recalled. "I came to a group of 
women as a stranger and left having made 
friends that left an impression on my life that 
I would not forget and that also gave me an 
opportunity to develop a love of fly fishing. 
I've volunteered with other organizations 
around breast cancer, and the warmth and 
fellowship developed between the CFR re- 
treat staff and participants made me want to 
give back." 

Mollie Simpkins is volimteer media co- 
ordinator for the Virginia retreats. 

"I do this because breast cancer aware- 
ness and serving the women who have been 
affected is my passion," she said. "When my 
mom was diagnosed in 1983, breast cancer 
was not talked about in polite company. Even 
eight years later when she lost her life, it was 
not something that many were comfortable 
having a conversation about ... Times have 
certainly changed for the better. 

"I'm just lucky enough that my position 

gives me the knowledge base to reach out to 
the media. Working with the amazing people 
of CFR, both nationally and locally, along 
with the participants and all of the volun- 
teers, has absolutely changed my life and fo- 
cused my purpose." 

A Typical Schedule 

Elaine and I attended the May 20 1 1 retreat 
in Madison County as members of the 
media. Over the course of two and a half 
days, fly-fishing activities (knot instruction, 
fly tying, practice casting, entomology, 
equipment needed, stream etiquette, and fi- 
nally, actual fly fishing) are combined with 
discussions on the physical and emotional as- 
pects of dealing with breast cancer and the 
objective of overall wellness. Volunteer an- 
glers handle the guiding aspects, and volun- 
teers in the medical field handle the physical 
and emotional dimension. 

Media members are only allowed to at- 
tend the last day of the retreat. When Elaine 
and I arrived, participants were eating break- 
fast and taking part in drawings for fly-fish- 
ing gear. Soon afterward, the ladies paired off 
with the volunteer men and women who 
were to be their guides for the morning fish- 
ing at a farm pond. While all of this was 
going on, Elaine saw her guide from the 20 1 
Virginia retreat, Andy Manley of Fairfax. 

"Do you remember how I told you to 
retrieve a fly," Andy asked when he greeted 
my wife. 

"Strip, strip, strip," giggled Elaine, and 
then both laughed about a man instructing a 
woman to do so in front of her husband. 
That type of light-hearted banter is very 
much a part of CFR retreats, but they contain 
a powerful emotional component as well. 

"I've had three different bouts with 
breast cancer and still have 'chemo brain,'" 
said Karen Hines of Virginia Beach. "Last 
night, I got my best night's sleep since this 
whole cancer thing started. 

"Meeting and talking with other 
women who have been through what I have 
been through and who were so supportive of 
me is the best thing that has happened to me 
in a long time. 1 wasn't much of a fisherman 
before coming here, but being outside and 
enjoying nature is very healing." 

Manley agrees about the emotional as- 
pects, for both the guides and the partici- 

26 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFlshVA.conn 




Left, volunteer Marcia Woolman of Middleburg lands a fine trout for participant Rachel Wetherill 
after landing her first trout with the help of guide Brian Randolph. 


Above, Sara Fought shrieks w^ith joy 

©Bruce Ingram 

"One of the most special memories I have 
took place at my first retreat," he recalled. "My 
participant was close to 70, had never fished, 
and was a little unsure of herself when we 
waded out into a trout stream. 

"But then she started catching trout like 
crazy and became so excited that she almost lost 
her balance and fell in. Just to see her enjoying 
the outdoors is something that I'll never forget." 

It was time for these 1 3 attendees and their 
guides to go fishing at a farm pond stocked with 
trout and bluegills. I first observed Manley tu- 
toring Hines. 

"1 caught my first fish on a fly rod yester- 
day," Hines told me. "It was a beautiful 4-inch 
bluegill. I'm going to catch my first trout 

Soon afterwards, Hines hooked a jumbo 
rainbow that immediately leapt into the air, 
threw the fly, and landed with a loud splat. 

"Are the other fish going to go away now 
because of all that racket?" Karen asked Andy. 

Soon afterward, across the pond 1 wit- 
nessed Rachel Wetherill of Bluemont doing 
battle with a huge rainbow as guide Marcia 
Woolman of Middleburg coached her on how 
to fight and net a fish. After numerous leaps and 
runs, the trout finally entered Woolman's net 
and Rachel beamed with delight. 

"Last night, the women formed a circle 
and shared their darkest fears," Wetherill told 
me after releasing the fish, her first-ever trout. 
"1 can't tell you how much love and support I 
felt when that was going on. 

"Fishing is a way we women can get close 
to one another, too. It's something that we can 
experience with our new friends for the rest of 
our lives. " 

I then heard shrieks of joy coming from 
farther down the shoreline and went to inves- 
tigate. The sounds were coming from Sara 
Fought, who was simultaneously talking, 
laughing, and well, yes, shrieking at her just- 
landed trout, along with guide Brian Ran- 
dolph of Reston, and me. 

"I'd never been fishing before," she ex- 
claimed. "I thought at best I might catch a lit- 
de sunfish. But the whole retreat has been 
about me doing things that I didn't think were 
possible, from being able to survive breast 
cancer to catching a big trout. " 

On a personal note. Casting for Recov- 
ery has played a major role in Elaine's healing. 
She has developed friends from her participa- 
tion in the 20 1 event. Before CFR, she re- 
garded going fishing with me as merely an 

unpleasant, wifely chore to be endured every 
few years. Now, we plan trips together and 
Elaine regularly orders gear from catalogs. 
My wife even ties her own flies, adding to her 
kit turkey feathers and deer hair from game I 
have harvested. 

CFR welcomes donations and volun- 
teers from corporations, clubs, and individu- 
als, as participants do not have to pay to 
attend a retreat. The Virginia retreat raised 
funds for 1 3 women to attend last May, but 
with additional donadons more could partic- 
ipate. Individuals are turned away every year 
because of a lack of funding. As the om- 
nipresent CFR motto states ... "To fish is to 
hope." ?f 

Bruce Ingram is the author of four books on river 
fishing and writes a weekly outdoors bbgfor more 
information: imvw. 


Casting for Recovery: 
(888) 553-3500 

JUNE 2012 ♦ 27 


\^K§\ Outdoor 

iForaging I ClSSSlCS 

The Everything Guide to Foraging: 
Identifying Harvesting and Cooking 
Nature's Wild Fruits and Vegetables 

by Vickie Shufer 

2011 F+W/Adams Media 


www. ever)TJii ng. com 


"Knowledge that isn't used is lost. It's one thing to 
know how to identify a particular plant and 
know it's edible, but you also need to know how 
to process and prepare it " 

-Vickie Shufer 

This new book by one of Virginias foremost 
experts on native plants and wild foods fills a 
real void in wildcrafting literature. It bridges 
the gap between the traditional pictorial 
plant identification field guide and wild food 
books that contain recipes, but which seem 
targeted to a niche audience of wild food 
devotees. Here is a book for the rest of us, 
suitable for both novice foragers and experi- 
enced wild-foodies alike. Packed with infor- 
mation on sustainable, earth-friendly 
foraging tactics, conservation ethics, and 
recipes that emphasize each season's bounty, 
Shufer also includes safety guidelines crucial 
to successful foraging, touching upon topics 
such as allergies, poisonous plants, and pesti- 
cide use. 

Readers can put together numerous de- 
licious, multi-course meals from the recipe 
chapters: everything from soup and appetiz- 
ers to dessert, preserves, vinegars, and cor- 
dials. There are recipes for Clover Mint Tea, 
Rose Hip Cider, Jerusalem Artichoke Salad, 
Red Bud Stir-fry, Wild Veggie Pizza, Stuffed 
Wild Grape Leaves, and Beech Nut Pie. 

But there are limits to foraging enjoy- 
ment if you don't know how to prepare, store, 
and preserve nature's bounty, or if you don't 

know which kitchen devices can make wild 
food preparation easy and fun. Shufer 
though tfiilly suggests methods by which any- 
one can safely dry, can, freeze, or dehydrate a 
variety of wild foods, and adds a compendi- 
um of useftil kitchen gadgets and utensils. In 
addition, there is a chapter designed to assist 
readers who might be interested in growing 
and reproducing native wild plants on their 
own. An extremely useful volimie. 

King George County's 
Outdoors Club 

by Ken Perrotte 

Youngsters who signed up for King George 
County Middle School's new "Outdoors 
Club" are enjoying a full sensory experience 
during the program's initial year. They have 
heard and practiced with deer, duck, and 
turkey calls, learned about the workings of 
trail cameras, studied deer and their habitat, 
and even tried butchering venison quarters 
into pan-sized pieces of meat. 

The club had informal beginnings last 
year when English teacher Mark Fike hosted 
lunchtime discussions with several students 
who expressed interest in hunting and fish- 
ing. Brown bag lunches of wild game pre- 
pared by Fike or the students' parents were 
occasional treats. 

Afi:er the Department's Senior Conser- 
vation Police Officer Frank Spuchesi spoke to 
the group one morning about treestand safe- 
ty, he and Fike hatched a plan for an outdoors 
club. After all, there were drama clubs, chess 
clubs, and more. Why not an outdoors club? 

Fike laid the groundwork with the 
school and when first-year teachers Kevin 
Linza (social studies) and Sarah Smigielski 
(math) heard about the plan, they wanted in. 

The fledgling club initially had 60 stu- 
dents sign up, making it the school's largest! 
The teachers surveyed the children to assess 
their level of experience and identify the top- 
ics they wanted to see covered. The kids sug- 
gested nearly 30, including cooking venison 
and game, aging deer by their jawbone, read- 
ing a river, using a fish finder, and more. 

Students ofiien break into groups, based 
on individual interests, for their monthly 

Teacher Kevin Linza (L) gives students a turkey 
calling demonstration. 

meetings. Some may hear a presentation 
about waterfowl hunting, while others take to 
the woods to learn how to read animal sign or 
use a piece of outdoors equipment. Linza says 
the club reinforces outdoors ethics and op- 
portunities for the experienced youngsters 
and introduces newcomers to things that 
may later become passions. 

"Some of these children don't have role 
models to expose them to the outdoors. 
Maybe the parents aren't interested, but the 
kids are . . . This gives us a chance to share 
what we know and love," Linza said. "It's a 
positive, educational environment. " 

Society Events 

June 23-24: Annual "HerpBlitz" Survey, 
Mattaponi Wildlife Management Area 

August 18: 1 -Day Survey Event, CaieAon 
Natural Area State Park 

More information at: 
20 1 2-events/20 1 2-vhs-events/index.htm 

Attention Anglers 

The 2011 Angler Hall of Fame will now be 
published in the July/August issue of the 


Black Bear Management 

Bear populations have increased in Virginia 
and diroughout the eastern U.S. during the 
past quarter-century. Harvest management, 
reforestation, public land purchases, oak for- 
est maturation, bear restoration efforts, and 
natural range expansions have all contributed 
to bear population growth here. Although 
this growing population has been welcomed 
by many people, the abundance of bears can 
also create concerns for others. 

~ \B-24, o^ 



Since 2001, Virginias Black Bear Man- 
agement Plan (BBMP) has provided the blue- 
print for black bear management to meet the 
Department's mission of managing 
"wildlife. . . to maintain optimum popula- 
tions... to serve the needs of the Common- 
wealth. " 

For six weeks during June and July, we 
are asking for public input on the revised 
BBMR This plan has been constructed over 
the past two years through guidance from 
public Stakeholder Advisory Committees 
and the DGIF Technical Committee. The 
goals in the revised BBMP reflect the values of 
a diverse public and are broad statements of 
pri nciples and ideals about what should be ac- 
complished with bear management in Vir- 
ginia. This plan will guide black bear 
management across the commonwealth over 
the next ten years. 

We encourage you to review and com- 
ment on the draft BBMP, which will be post- 
ed at 





Celebrate National 
Pollinator Week 

June 18-24, 201 2 
w\A/w. pol I i 

Pollinators are critical to the health of the 
planet and an abundant food supply. Many 
species are at risk, including the honeybee. A 
host of environmental factors are suspect, in- 
cluding pesticides and cell phone towers. But 
fortunately, people are waking up to the need 
to protect — rather than harm — these winged 
partners that carry so much weight. 

Education is key. Did you know, for ex- 
ample, that a honey bee: 

• Pollinates flowers, vegetables, and agri- 
cultural crops within a five-mile radius 
of its hive. 

• Only stings as a last resort (if stepped on, 
for example), because doing so means 
instant death. 

• When traveling or resting as a swarm, is 
completely docile. The bees are totally 
focused upon protecting their queen, 
who is being "escorted" at the center of 
the swarm. 

• Along with other pollinators, generates 
one-third of our food supply. 

Quail and Upland 
Wildlife Federation 

June 16: Fundraiser benefiting wildlife 
habitat and youth programs of Virginia. 
Shady Grove Kennels, Remington, 
9 A.M.-2 P.M. Open to all. Adult sporting 
clay and youth shotgun and rifle shooting. 

For details call 703-232-3572 or e-mail 

Recycle Your Fishing Line 

For Mary and Billy Apperson, their latest 
fishing trip to the James River produced 
something that they never thought they 
would catch. This great horned owl had a 
fish hook in his shoulder and had been 
trying in vain to get free from the entangle- 
ment. The Appersons found him exhaust- 
ed, suspended between two trees. 

After rescuing him, they received our 
permission to transport the bird back to a 
Williamsburg vet clinic. Sadly, the bird 
expired before receiving medical care. 

Anglers and boaters are encouraged to 
properly dispose of used monofilament 
fishing line! Many boat landings and public 
access sites around the state have special 
PVC containers for collecting used fishing 
line, making it easy to do so. 

For information about the program, 
locations of recycling containers, and how 
groups can become partners in sponsoring 
potential container sites, please go to 


"Hey Mom, you won't believe it 
but Dad caught a boot this big." 

JUNE 2012 ♦ 29 

Summer = Seasc 

essay by Matt Knox 

With the start of summer, the 
whitetails world has again un- 
dergone a dramatic change: the 
fawns have arrived. All of the chaos of the 
breeding season, or rut, 200 days prior has 
now resulted in the arrival of the next genera- 
tion of deer. In Virginia, this happens in late 
May and early June and translates to the ar- 
rival of probably a half-million new, spotted 
wildlife residents in less than one month's 

Does which separated from their family 
groups to set up and defend a fawning territo- 
ry have now given birth. In healthy deer pop- 
ulations, most adult does give birth to twin 
fawns. Not surprisingly, older does with high- 
er social stams and more experience tend to 
make better, or more successful, mothers. 

Fawns are generally born head and feet 
first and are able to stand and nurse within 
about 30 minutes of birth. Twin fawns are 
normally born 1 to 20 minutes apart. After 
the fawns are born, the doe will lick them 

clean and groom them and eat the afterbirth 
to reduce odors, thus minimizing the chance 
that predators will find them. These first 
hours of seclusion are critical because they 
allow the doe and fawn(s) to imprint each 
other, forming a critical bond where the doe 
will be able to identify her young in the fu- 

Young white-tailed deer fawns are 
hiders. This means the doe leaves them lying 
in the woods and fields alone nearly all the 
time for the first couple of weeks to month of 
life. The doe does not abandon them. She 
moves off far enough that her presence does 
not draw attention to the fawns, but remains 
close enough that she can come to their de- 
fense if necessary. Picking up a young fawn 
will normally cause it to make a piercing cry 
or bawl, which will bring the doe running. It 
is often during this time of year that protec- 
tive does attack dogs, or sometimes even peo- 
ple, defending very young, hidden fawns. 

During these critical first weeks, the doe 
will approach the area where the fawn is hid- 
ing two to four times each day, mostly during 
daylight hours. With a soft grunt she will call 

the fawn to her, allowing it to nurse for 5-10 
minutes. While it is nursing, she will lick and 
groom it. Then she will typically move the 
fawn a short distance and leave quickly. 
When she leaves, the fawn will automatically 
lie down again to resume hiding. 

Healthy fawns generally weigh about six 
to eight pounds at birth, and they grow 
quickly. During a typical nursing session a 
fawn will consume about eight ounces of 
milk, which is richer than cow's milk, and will 
usually gain about a half-pound per day, 
tripling its birth weight in the first month of 

Although ruminants by nature, a fawn 
has a digestive system folded in such a way 
early on to allow the milk to bypass the 
rumen and reticulum. By two to three weeks 
of age, fawns begin to eat vegetation. Al- 
though fawns can be seen nursing into fall, by 
1 2 weeks of age they are fianctionally weaned 
and full-time ruminants. 

The spotted coat of a hiding white-tailed 
deer fawn is one of the most well-known 
physical characteristics. White spots on a 
chestnut brown background act as nature's 



1 of the Fawns 

camouflage, hiding the fawn by mimicking 
dappled light coming through the forest 
canopy. Yes, someone has counted the spots. 
On average, a fawn has between 270 and 350 
of them, with two fairly straight lines down 
either side of its back and the rest scattered 
randomly over its sides. This camouflage 
works so well it is very difficult to see and find 
fawns in the woods. 

For the first five to ten days of life, young 
fawns will lie completely still and not even at- 
tempt to escape when approached by a preda- 
tor or a person. Because of this behavior, very 
young hiding fawns are highly vulnerable to 
predators such as black bears and coyotes. 
Many fawns do not survive. At least ten per- 
cent are generally lost to natural causes, and 
fawn predation rates of 20-30 percent, up to 
75 percent or more, have been documented 
across the Southeast recently. Not surprising- 
ly, most predation losses occur during the first 
week to ten days of life. 

Many times in suburban environments, 
young fawns will be found hiding in home- 
owners' yards or mulch beds, or even on 
porches or in carports. Because the fawns ap- 

pear to be alone, well-meaning people pick 
them up, thinking they have been aban- 
doned. They have not. Young fawns should 
not be picked up in late May and early June. 
Truly orphaned fawns, injured fawns, or 
fawns mistakenly picked up as orphans 
should be returned immediately to the area 
where found. If that is not possible, they must 
be taken to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. It 
is illegal in Virginia to keep deer as pets. 

By ten days to two weeks, although they 
still spend most of their time bedded and hid- 
ing, young fawns have changed from helpless 
hiders into exceptional escape artists, easily 
outrunning a person and most predators. As 
fawns age they become more active and 
spend increasingly longer periods with their 
mother, playing and frolicking about. By one 
month, sibling fawns that were kept separat- 
ed since birth are reunited. These play ses- 
sions are important to building strength and 
i^ility for escaping predators. Most activity 
by young fawns takes place during the day. 
This is thought to be an adaptation to avoid 
nocturnal predators like coyotes and bears. 
The first two months, most of their time is 

spent alone with their mother and siblings; 
however, by three months of age they will quit 
their solitary lifestyle and reunite with their 
mothers doe family group and other fawns. 
By fall, the fawns spend all of their time ac- 
companying the doe. 

While family life occupies the does dur- 
ing summer, adult males literally lie around 
and do nothing except grow antlers. Bucks re- 
main in loose bachelor groups, with size and 
membership routinely changing until the rut 
begins in September. 

Antler growth in male deer is the fastest 
normal tissue growth known among mam- 
mals; most is accomplished in less than 100 
days during May, June, and July. Growing 
antlers are sensitive, tender, and soft. Bucks go 
out of their way to avoid injuring them, as in- 
juries frequently result in malformed anders. 

By August 1 , shortening days mean the 
annual life cycle of the deer is beginning to 
turn again, back to fall and back to deer life in 
the rut. 

Matt Knox is a deer project coordinator for the 
Department, serving south-central Virginia. 

"*fti^i . " *^ 


" v^\.^ 






JUNE 2012 ♦ 31 


by Lynda Richardson 

One spring, I joined Bob and Linda 
Cole and long-time buddy Mitchell 
Byrd for a bird watching trip to Dutch Gap 
and Henricus Park. We were looking for 
spring warblers; more specifically, the com- 
mon yellowthroat. Wandering around areas 
known to be yellowthroat haunts, we 
scanned the trees with our binoculars, listen- 
ing intendy for their calls. There just weren't 
any to be found. 

"They have to be here by now," Mitchell 
noted aloud. We all stood quietly watching 
the canopy above. Then, something amazing 
happened. Linda pulled out her phone and 
called a yellowthroat. 

the birds fast, melodious voice erupted from 
her hand. Within seconds, "witchity-witchi- 
ty-witchity-witchity" cascaded down from 
the trees. 

"How did you do that, " I asked, walking 
over to see what number she could possibly 
have dialed. Linda showed me her phone and 
on it I saw the photograph of a beautifial com- 
mon yellowthroat in breeding plumage with 
a listing of several vocalizations below it. You 
simply press one and it plays the bird song of 
your choice. 

Linda scrolled around the phone, show- 
ing me other birds and the information in- 
cluded with each. Her phone was a 
hand-held encyclopedia of bird songs, de- 
scriptions, habitat preferences, ranges, and 
even a place where you could report sightings 
and keep a log of birds you'd seen and where 
you'd seen them. You could also find out what 
birds had been sighted recently and where. 
I'm not kidding. . . there was even a map to 
direct you to the location. 

Linda filled me in to an amazing thing 
called APPS and I want you to know there are 
a BILLION apps out there for just about any- 
thing you can think of including photogra- 
phy. I wasn't really interested in apps before as 
I still owned an "ancient" 2003 flip phone. 
Now, apps had my attention. 

You wouldn't believe the number of apps 
that can be found in the bird identification 
field. Some are free downloads, while others 

There's An App For That! 

range in cost from $9.99 to $39.99 depend- 
ing on the extent of the collection. The Green 
Mountain Digital Audubon Society Field 
Guides ofi^er an entire collection including 
birds, mammals, trees, and wildflowers for 
$39.99, or just birds for $19.99. The Sibley 
eGuide for $19.99 or the National Geo- 
graphic Society's Handheld Birds app for 
$9.99 are great bird-only apps. Feel free to try 
them out before you buy, as each will allow 
you to preview the information! If you have 
an iPhone, simply go to the App Store icon 
on your phone, do a search, and shop away. 

Needless to say, I now have an iPhone 
and a bird field guide app, and I love both of 
them! If I'm taking a walk, birdwatching, or 
just hanging out, I enjoy opening the app and 
listening to various vocalizations — trying to 
memorize them and which bird creates them. 
I have also been checking out the photogra- 
phy apps, which look pretty darn cool too. 
And oh, did I tell you the iPhone also has a re- 
ally great camera? Stay tuned for more on 
that! Happy Apping and Happy Shooting! 

Please Note: 

The use of apps or other means of play- 
back to call in birds remains a controver- 
sial topic among birders. It is important 
to note that there are some situations in 
which the use of such playback is either 
illegal (when used on threatened or 
endangered species) or prohibited (in 
many parks and refiiges). Recommen- 
dations on appropriate situations and 
ways to use this technology most effec- 
tively, while minimizing disturbance to 
birds and fellow birders, are available at: 1/04/the- 

Lynda Richardson's 
Photography Workshops 

Be sure to check out my upcoming 
workshops at: or 
my website at www.lyndarichardson! 

Bob and Linda Cole and Mitchell Byrd (R) look for common yellowthroats at Dutch Gap. Linda plays 
an app on her phone that has the song of the bird we are after. Amazingly, one responds! Obvious- 
ly, this is a great tool for photography! © 2011 Lynda Richardson 


t)n the Water 

by Tom Guess 

Things That Make You Wonder 

It's starting to feel like boating season and 
you are either already on the water or get- 
ting your boat ready for that. Our staff re- 
ceives hundreds of calls and emails each year 
with questions about boating equipment or 
boating laws. I thought this might be a great 
oppormnity to share some of the most com- 
monly asked questions with you. 

Where can I get a copy of the Virginia 
Wiitercrafi Owner's Guide? 

This year we merged the Virginia Watercraft 
Owner's Guide into the Virginia Freshwater 
Fishing & Watercraft Owner's Guide. This new 
combined guide is available at any licensed 
vendor that sells a license for the Department. 
They are also available in the sporting goods 
section of several major department stores, as 
well as rest areas, visitor's centers, and various 
locations that have information kiosks con- 
taining outdoor information. The guide is 
also available online through our website: 

Dolneedto renter my boat, andifso, 

This requirement is derived from the Code of 
Federal Regulations, 33 CFR 173: All vessels 
with propulsion machinery (electric, gaso- 
line, diesel, steam, or other) must be regis- 
tered in the state of principal use. States can 
be more stringent than the federal require- 
ment, but must at least meet this require- 
ment. This is why all vessels, even vessels with 
a trolling motor, must be registered. 

Do I need a horn or whistle on my boat? 

All vessel operators are required to be able to 
make a sufficient sound signal if needed. For 
vessels less than 39.4 feet, this could be as sim- 
ple as a police whistle — which is audible for 
up to 0.5 nautical miles. Many boats are 
equipped with automotive-style horns, or the 
operator may have a Freon-style, manually 
activated horn on board. Any of these will 
make a sufficient sound signal and meet the 

requirements of the law. This is why we issue a 
whisde to every student who takes a Boat Vir- 
ginia classroom boating safet)' course. 

Why do I need a boating class? I have 
been boating all my life and never had 
any trouble. 

Many boaters often launch and remrn at the 
same ramp, transit to the same area, or boat 
the same way with no trouble for many years; 
however, if they find themselves in a position 
of having to navigate to another area due to 
weather, or navigate in fog, or if they have a 
sudden onboard emergency, it may be a 
much different stor\'. On average, recreation- 
al boaters who complete a basic boating safety 
course approved by the National Association 
of State Boating Law Administrators (NAS- 
BLA) are 75 percent less likely to be involved 
in an incident on the water. 

Virginia experiences, on average, 120 re- 
ported accidents and 20 fatalities annually. 

Only about 1 1 percent of these accidents in- 
volve alcohol and the incidents involving 
rental boats are very low. Most accidents hap- 
pen on small, open motorboats during calm 
weather in the late afternoon. By taking an 
approved boating safet)' coiu'se, you will not 
only be in compliance with the law, you will 
be mitigating the chance of being involved in 
an incident on the water. The Boat Virginia 
classroom course is free of charge. You can 
also take a course offered by the U.S. Coast 
Guard AiDdliary, the U.S. Power Squadrons, 
or online through a third party provider for 
about $25—35, depending on the course you 
choose. To locate a classroom or online 
course, visit our website: www.HuntFish 

Until next time: Be Responsible, Be 
Safe, and Have Fim! 

Tom Guess, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret), serves as the 
state boating law administrator at the DGIF. 

JUNE 2012 ♦ 33 

ning In 

by Ken and Mono Perrotte 
Oven Barbecued Bear 



^ »~^ 

Talk to most wild game neophytes about eating bear and 
watch with a smile as their defensive shields are activated. 

"Bear? Isn't it too greasy?" 

"Bear? Isn't it too gamey?" 

"Bear? Can't it make you sick?" 

Greasy and gamey are usually a function of field care. Proper 
handling is essential from the time the bear is killed through the 
processing and final preparation of the cuts of meat for the cooking 
pot. It is true that bears can carry the parasites that cause Trichi- 
nosis. The solution here is to simply ensure the bear is well cooked, 
to an internal temperature of at least 165° throughout. The truth 
is, once people try well-prepared bear, it often achieves delicacy 
status and a place at the top of the tasty red meat list. 

Bears are expanding their range in Virginia. Additional 
seasons could mean more lucky hunters might be adding this 
flavorful, rich red meat to the dinner table. 

Maria originally concocted this recipe using kitchen know- 
how and a creative gleaning of ingredients hanging out in the 
refrigerator. It has never failed to delight anyone who tried it. And, 
here's a secret — it would work just as well with a nice venison roast. 


1 small bear roast, about 1.5 pounds, well trimmed of silver skin, 

gristle, and visible fat 
I or 2 tablespoons salt for brining 
1 teaspoon bacon fat 

1 teaspoon olive oil 

V4 teaspoon cracked black pepper 
Vi onion, chopped 

2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped 
1 rib celery, chopped 

1 clove garlic, chopped 

Vs teaspoon paprika 

1 teaspoon chili powder 

1 teaspoon dry mustard 

1 tablespoon tomato paste 

Vi cup ketchup 

Va cup vinegar 

1 tablespoon sugar (more or less to taste) 

6 or 7 drops Tabasco or hot sauce 

1 teaspoon lemon juice 

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 

1 tablespoon canola oil; less if bear has any fat 

Vi cup water 

Fresh chopped chives 

Prep and Cooking 

In a non-metal container, brine the meat in a mixture of 1 table- 
spoon salt to 3 cups water. Use more salt and water if needed so 
that the roast is fully covered. Brine for at least 4 hours, or 
overnight. Drain the meat, pat it dry, and let sit it on counter to 
air dry and for about 1 5 to 20 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 300°. 

In a Dutch oven or oven-proof pan, heat the fat and olive 
oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. All oil can be used 
if you don't want the bacon fat. Brown the meat on all sides and 
remove to a plate. Turn down the heat to medium-low and add 
the onions, celery, and green pepper. Saute until soft. Add the 
garlic and dry seasonings and cook for a minute. Add the tomato 
paste and cook another minute. Then add the rest of the ingredi- 
ents, turn up the heat, and bring to a boil. Add the meat and 
turn or baste to cover the meat with sauce. Cover and place in 
the oven. Cook for 3 or more hours, depending on the size and 
shape of the roast. Turn and baste occasionally. Add a litde water 
if the sauce gets too thick or dry. 

When done, the meat must be fiilly cooked and should be 
fork tender and easily shredded. Garnish with coarsely chopped 
fresh chives for color and flavor. Accompany with favorite potato 
and vegetable sides, such as lightly sauteed tomatoes. A hefty, dry 
red wine that's not too heavy on fruit nuances pairs well. 

Sauteed Grape Tomatoes 

Vi tablespoon olive oil 

Vz tablespoon unsalted butter 

1 pint grape tomatoes 

Pinch of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper 

Heat olive oil and butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add 
tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook until soft, stirring several times. 

34 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ wv\w.HuntFishVA.conri 

Coming This July! 

Change is a part of life, 

and that's certainly true of the 

publishing world these days. So you 

will probably not be surprised to learn 

that this magazine will undergo 

some changes soon. 

Beginning this July, Virginia Wildlife \n\\\ become 
a bi-monthly magazine. We will add more 
pages, more content, and more special features— as 
we move to six issues a year: July-August, September- 
October, November-December, January-February, 
March-April, and May-June. This change means that, 
even in the face of increased production costs, Virginia 
Wildlife will maintain its low subscription rate and re- 
main free of advertising while giving you more of the 
stories and photography that you have asked for. Our 
goal is to make every issue bigger and better than ever! 

We will kick off the new format with a special fea- 
ture about the history of the Pittman-Robertson Act, 
the legislative linchpin in the foundation of all wildlife 
and sportfishing restoration programs across this coun- 
try. The following issue will include a special hunting 
guide, running at the start of the fall seasons. Also 
coming to you next year will be a trout guide, a fishing 
forecast, and a special outdoors guide showcasing 
wildlife-related recreation opportunities and events. 
That guide will be combined with our annual photog- 
raphy contest, to be published in July-August 2013. 
(More details about the photo contest will be forth- 
coming; categories and deadline will change.) 

The magazine staff is excited about the new format 
and the opportunity to better serve our loyal sub- 
scribers who have supported the magazine over the 
past 73 years. We ask for your patience as we move 
forward, and trust that the new and improved Virginia 
Wildlife will continue to find a spot by your favorite 
reading chair. 

Days ' 

lune 1 -3 

If fishing in designated stoclted trout waters, 
botli a fresliwater and trout license are required. 

Boating Safety Courses Are Required 
Personal Watcrcraft (PWO^JetSkr 

All ages by July 1, 2012. No one under the age of 14 
cam operate a PWC 

Motorboat 1 hp or Greater 

Age 30 or younger, July 1, 2012 
Age 40 or younger, July 1, 2013 
Age 45 or younger, July 1, 2014 
Age 50 or younger, July 1, 2015 
All ages by July 1,2016 


Bound Copies of Vii:ginia Kf Idlife Magazine 
Annual Editions from 1990 through 2011 

Are Available in Limited Supply 

$26.75 per edition (includes S/H) Pay by Check Only to : Treasurer of Virginia 

Mail to : Virginia Wildlife IViagazine P.O. Box 1 1 104, Richmond, VA 23230- 1 104 

Include your full name, daytime phone, and USPS shipping address. 
Reference Item No. VW-230 and the year(s) you are purchasing. 

Please allow 4 weeks for receipt of order. 

Magazine subscription-related calls only 1-800-710-9369 ♦ Annual subscription for just $1 2.95 

All other calls to (804) 367-1 000; (804) 367-1 278 TTY 

Now it's easier thaw ever to find a fishing destination close to you. 
Simply visit where you'll find places that are 
close, convenient— and they'll pass the muster with all your fishing 
buddies. Hey you'll even get insider's tips on how to catch the big one. 

Buy your fishing license today. Call (866)721-6911, go to 
^^^^B & U^ or visit your nearest location. 

?uy any two Shakespere products that , 
total HO and a 20 1 2 fishing license, and ' 
get ^10 back by mail. 

Go to for terms 
and conditions, and the official rebate form.